Searchlights on Health/Old Maids
1. MODERN ORIGIN.—The prejudice which certainly still exists in the average mind against unmarried women must be of comparatively modern origin. From the earliest ages to ancient Greece, and Rome particularly, the highest honors were paid them. They were the ministers of the old religions, and regarded with superstitious awe.
2. MATRIMONY.—Since the reformation, especially during the last century, and in our own land, matrimony has been so much esteemed, notably by women, that it has come to be regarded as in some sort discreditable for them to remain single. Old maids are mentioned on every hand with mingled pity and disdain, arising no doubt from the belief, conscious or unconscious, that they would not be what they are if they could help it. Few persons have a good word for them as a class. We are constantly hearing of lovely maidens, charming wives, buxom widows, but almost never of attractive old maids.
3. DISCARDING PREJUDICE.—The real old maid is like any other woman. She has faults necessarily, though not those commonly conceived of. She is often plump, pretty, amiable, interesting, intellectual, cultured, warm-hearted, benevolent, and has ardent friends of both sexes. These constantly wonder why she has not married, for they feel that she must have had many opportunities. Some of them may know why; she may have made them her confidantes. She usually has a sentimental, romantic, frequently a sad and pathetic past, of which she does not speak unless in the sacredness of intimacy.
4. NOT QUARRELSOME.—She is not dissatisfied, querulous nor envious. On the contrary, she is, for the most part, singularly content, patient and serene,—more so than many wives who have household duties and domestic cares to tire and trouble them.
5. REMAIN SINGLE FROM NECESSITY.—It is a stupid, as well as a heinous mistake, that women who remain single do so from necessity. Almost any woman can get a husband if she is so minded, as daily observation attests. When we see the multitudes of wives who have no visible signs of matrimonial recommendation, why should we think that old maids have been totally neglected? We may meet those who do not look inviting. But we meet any number of wives who are even less inviting.
6. FIRST OFFER.—The appearance and outgiving of many wives denote that they have accepted the first offer; the appearance and outgiving of many old maids that they have declined repeated offers. It is undeniable, that wives, in the mass, have no more charm than old maids have, in the mass. But, as the majority of women are married, they are no more criticised nor commented on, in the bulk, than the whole sex are. They are spoken of individually as pretty or plain, bright or dull, pleasant or unpleasant; while old maids are judged as a species, and almost always unfavorable.
7. BECOMES A WIFE.—Many an old maid, so-called, unexpectedly to her associates becomes a wife, some man of taste, discernment and sympathy having induced her to change her state. Probably no other man of his kind has proposed before, which accounts for her singleness. After her marriage hundreds of persons who had sneered at her condition find her charming, thus showing the extent of their prejudice against feminine celibacy. Old maids in general, it is fair to presume, do not wait for opportunities, but for proposers of an acceptable sort. They may have, indeed they are likely to have, those, but not to meet these.
8. NO LONGER MARRY FOR SUPPORT.—The time has changed and women have changed with it. They have grown more sensible, more independent in disposition as well as circumstances. They no longer marry for support; they have proved their capacity to support themselves, and self-support has developed them in every way. Assured that they can get on comfortably and contentedly alone they are better adapted by the assurance for consortship. They have rapidly increased from this and cognate causes, and have so improved in person, mind and character that an old maid of to-day is wholly different from an old maid of forty years ago.